chol·​la | \ ˈchȯi-yə How to pronounce cholla (audio) \

Definition of cholla

: any of numerous shrubby opuntias chiefly of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico that have needlelike spines partly enclosed in a papery sheath and cylindrical joints

called also cholla cactus

Illustration of cholla

Illustration of cholla

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Did You Know?

A shrubby cactus chiefly of the southwestern United States and Mexico, a cholla has cylindrical joints and needlelike spines partly enclosed in a papery sheath. Chollas vary greatly in size and have small flowers that are sometimes yellow-green and inconspicuous, but usually of more striking colors. One cholla, the desert Christmas cactus, bears bright red fruits through the winter. Living plants serve as food for desert animals. Cholla wood, a hollow cylinder with regularly spaced holes, is used for fuel and decorative novelties. Some cholla fruit is edible.

Examples of cholla in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web During one of my earliest Joshua Tree hikes, a spindly segment of pencil cholla pierced through the thick rubber of my boot soles. Shawnté Salabert, Outside Online, "The Ultimate Joshua Tree National Park Travel Guide," 28 Oct. 2019 Massive chain fruit cholla, ocotillo and (of course) saguaros grow profusely on the sunny desert plains. Mare Czinar, azcentral, "Every great thing about the Sonoran Desert is on display in this easy hike," 15 Jan. 2020 Chollas View is named for the cholla cactus that once covered the landscape. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Encanto Neighborhoods: ‘Enchanted’ communities are home to Jackie Robinson Y, Holy Cross cemetery," 30 June 2019 From alkali flats to scorpions to the cholla cactus that seems to actually leap onto passersby, Nevada is not for the faint of heart. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Fox News Power Rankings: Dean Heller, survivalist," 19 Sep. 2018 Made with foraged desert juniper, the magenta flowers of the walking stick cholla cactus, osha root, locally farmed Cascade hops, and white sage, the gin conveys cucumber, dill, and earthy flavors. Sunset, "6 Botanical Gins We’re Loving Right Now," 22 Jan. 2018 The trail is wide and plush with saguaros, cholla, ocotillo, creosote, yucca and granite boulders. Sonja Haller, azcentral, "Ultimate Scottsdale, Arizona, bucket list: Top 25 things to do," 9 Feb. 2015 But a good overview starts at the Waddell Trail with its cholla, saguaro and paloverde. Sonja Haller, azcentral, "Ultimate Arizona bucket list: 15 things to do in Surprise," 16 Feb. 2015 The cholla fruit had some semblance of moisture, but lacked the leaves’ nutrients. Alex Devoid, azcentral, "Back from the brink, the Sonoran pronghorn now roam an increasingly political landscape," 27 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cholla.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cholla

1846, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for cholla

Mexican Spanish, from Spanish, head

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Time Traveler for cholla

Time Traveler

The first known use of cholla was in 1846

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Statistics for cholla

Last Updated

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cholla.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jul. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on cholla

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cholla

Spanish Central: Translation of cholla Encyclopedia article about cholla

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